The Job Coaches: Coping with a difficult boss

Think you’ve got the worst boss in the world? Well, your boss may have serious competition according to a recently released five-year comparative study commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting.

photoAccording to this study, seven out of 10 people believe bosses and toddlers act alike.

“Self-oriented” is noted as the top offending boss behavior, with stubborn, overly demanding, impulsive and interruptive rounding out the top five.

A recent Gallup management study of one million employed workers confirmed that having a poor relationship with the boss is the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs.

“People leave managers, not companies … in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,” Gallup wrote in its survey findings.

However, with the economy in tatters and jobs hard to come by, quitting may not be a viable option.

While you cannot control how your boss behaves, you are in control of how you manage the situation.

–Is your boss a glory grabber who takes all the credit for your good work? Sure it rankles to see the boss accept all the praise and fail to mention your contribution, but there are a few things you can subtly do to favorably remind others of your involvement. Send e-mails containing pertinent work information to your boss and include other key management personnel in the distribution. Casually mention your input on a project if you get to share an elevator ride with your boss’ boss.

–Are you dealing with a weathervane boss who changes the rules without notice? The most effective way to deal with this impulsive behavior is to clearly define the work outcomes with your boss when the assignment is given, and then send a confirming e-mail to him/her that outlines the established expectations. When your boss flip-flops on what is to be done, calmly share the e-mail and renegotiate the results.

–Does your boss remind you of a helicopter hovering overhead, constantly interrupting and micromanaging your work? First, you need to recognize and accept your boss’ deep-seated need for control; and then manage around it. Reassure him that you have the bases covered and keep him updated on your progress by sending periodic e-mails, reports, phone calls, a quick coffee chat or whatever communication vehicle your company uses.

–Could your boss be doubling as a secret agent, that mysterious person who’s missing in action and who communicates irregularly? With a boss like this, you must take responsibility for getting on his radar (sure it’s a pain, but failing to do so only hurts your performance review) by scheduling meetings or popping into his office to quickly chat, ask questions and confirm work assignments.

Bosses typically fall into one of three categories: those who are totally clueless about their behaviors, those who know they aren’t a good boss and do want to get better, and those who plain don’t care.

If your boss falls into one of the first two categories, you may want to discuss your concerns with them. Organize what you want to say, present it in a thoughtful manner and do not respond in anger, which only hurts you.

If your boss falls in the last category and/or may be behaving unlawfully, talk to your HR representative if your organization has one; otherwise speak with another trusted person in management or decide if you can continue to work for the company.

Always take the high road in dealing with a bad boss so your performance is above reproach.

Jane Perdue is CEO of The Braithewaite Group.The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing If you would like further assistance, make an appointment; a donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, November 20, 2009.


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